We’ve all been there: desperately trying to level your latest cake creation with a bread knife before stepping back and realising that, if anything, it’s more wonky than it was before, and now you’re going to have to battle with crumbs to frost the damn thing.
Or worse, attempting to stack domed cakes and fill the gaps with frosting, leading to an inevitable sponge landslide. There’s a plethora of gadgets and recommended methods for making your cake layers flat-topped and ready for stacking…but really, all you need is a bit of thread or some safety pins, and an old flannel, to create a wrap, like a headband, for your cake tin. Then, simply wet it and wring it out, wrap it around your cake tin, and cook as normal for a perfectly flat-topped cake.
How does it work? The wet towel stops the sides of the cake from getting hot, so it doesn’t bake early on – instead, the whole cake bakes at the same time, and so rises to the same height.
You might be able to buy strips for this purpose from a cookshop – but it’s worth spending a few minutes cutting and sewing, or pinning, to make something that will cost you pennies and last for ages. If you plan on making a few – for different-sized tins, for example – you may be better off cutting up a hand towel.
To make the wrap, cut your (clean!) flannel into strips as wide as the depth of your cake tin, then sew or pin them together end to end, creating a long strip of towel. Run this strip through your hands a few times to remove any fluff or loose bits of towel. Wrap this around your tin, then pin or sew it closed so it’s firmly wrapped around but loose enough to wiggle off when the cake’s done cooking. Each time you want to use it, simply wet it again – and rejoice in never having wonky layer cakes again.